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It’s National Wildlife Week: March 17-23

It’s National Wildlife Week!

[Click on images for greater clarity]

Marsh Rabbit Baby, Florida Wetlands

The ridiculously adorable marsh rabbit baby in the Florida wetlands — or as I call them, swamp bunnies

Founded by the National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Week is the organization’s “longest-running education program designed around teaching and connecting kids to the awesome wonders of wildlife.” The theme of 2014 — Wildlife and Water — is an effort to “provide fun and informative educational materials, curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to use with kids.”

Sunning Alligator, Florida Everglades

A cuddly and lazy sunning alligator in the northern section of the Florida Everglades

Living on the edge / vestiges of the magnificent Everglades, the theme of Wildlife and Water is perfection. From the marshes and swamps, to the ‘glades, to the lakes and rivers and open ocean, the opportunities to explore the wonders and beauties of our unique wildlife are endless in South Florida.

Great Egret, Everglades, Florida

A regal great egret rests against the setting sun in the waters of the northern Florida Everglades

Visit their site to learn more, spread the word, and further the conservation efforts of these wonders.

An Everglades Valentine’s Wish

Where there is love there is life. -Mahatma Gandhi

Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the Everglades critters!

Mating Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus), Fern Forest Nature Center, Florida

Mating Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus), Fern Forest Nature Center

It doesn’t take much to find love on an excursion into the natural world, where it surrounds us at every moment — which is why I escape to it as much as possible. It’s a beautiful reminder.

Breeding Great Egrets Building Their Nest, Florida Wetlands

The boys hunt for, and bring the best sticks to build the new nest: Breeding Great Egrets Building Their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Alligator Pair in the Florida Everglades

Perfect headrest: Alligator Pair in the Florida Everglades. Recent studies have shown that up to 70 percent of alligator females remained with their partner — often for many years.

Alligator Pair in the Florida Everglades

Alligator Pair During Mating Season in the SWA Trail Network of Grassy Waters Preserve, West Palm Beach

Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Monogamous (at least during the breeding season!) Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at Their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

CUDDLES: Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Heart Tree at Fern Forest Nature Center, Broward County, Florida

Heart Tree Sends its Love at the Fern Forest Nature Center

It’s Florida Week for the Animals: February 15-23, 2014!

Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it. —St. Francis of Assisi

Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives. —Dr. Albert Schweitzer

When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul. —A.D. Williams

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way. ―Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sara

My little Sara, AKA “Criminal,” stalking another one of my rescues. One year later, she’s a far different soul than the one I pulled off the streets.

It’s been so long since my last post, I feel like I’m re-learning WordPress. Fortunately I’ve kept up with the amazing words, art, and images of all of you. The scope of talent, and the depth of support, continues to take my breath away.

February 15-23 is the 6th Annual Florida Week for the Animals! Check out their Calendar of Events to see what’s happening throughout the state. From the website:

Throughout the week, educational institutions, animal shelters, rescue groups, and humane organizations across the state will be hosting scores of wonderful animal-related special events. Educators, students, businesses and caring citizens across Florida will be joining in, creating and planning their exciting activities to celebrate and help animals. Events will include adoption fairs, spay/neuter events, shelter volunteer and beautification days, programs in libraries, walks for the farm animals and therapy dogs visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Also to be included are a salute to our canine military and police dogs, cat initiatives, educational programs, blessings of the animals, and fun-filled festival days for families to come and enjoy food, music and the always amazing animals!

Alligator, Grassy Waters Preserve, West Palm Beach, Florida

Not to forget our wildlife: Florida’s beautiful but misunderstood alligators (here at Grassy Waters Preserve in West Palm Beach)

Help speak up for the innocent and voiceless of our state, this week and every day. It doesn’t take much. And be sure to visit the links to the right, under “Florida Nature Blogs.” Blogs like janthina images, Walking with Alligators, naturetime, and Our Florida Journal showcase and highlight the plight of our area’s most unique and beautiful creatures.

TNR Cat, and Abandoned Neighborhood Florida Feline

One of the neighborhood kitties I’ve TNR’d (Trapped-Neutered-Released), with the help of some amazing organizations. Here, “Momma” sits on my car (immediately upon my arrival), waiting for…love? OK, food.

Hawk, Grassy Waters Preserve, West Palm Beach, Florida

Always keep an eye on our feathered friends: This guy’s happy at home in the wild (within the SWA Trail network in West Palm Beach), but many require our assistance as we continue to breach their world

Peek-a-Boo, I See You!

“We cannot live without the Earth or apart from it, and something is shrivelled in a man’s heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men.”  ―Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

On August 8, 1896, one of Florida’s greatest novelists and conservationists was born: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Although she grew up in Washington D.C., Rawlings settled in rural Florida, writing about the land and people of her surroundings. Her works included the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Yearling, and Cross Creek, an autobiographical account of life in her beloved Florida — she loved her hammocks. Happy birthday, Marjorie!

Flatwoods of Cypress Creek Natural Area, Jupiter, Florida

One of my favorite spots, the flatwoods of Cypress Creek Natural Area

A warm, long-overdue hullllo and peek-a-boo from the depths of South Florida, to the blogging world — I’ve missed you all so!

Juvenile Alligator, Grassy Waters Preserve, Florida

Nearly stumbling about this sweet juvenile gator in Grassy Waters Preserve. Hullo, fella!

Hit the Trails — It’s National Trails Day!

June 1, 2013 is National Trails Day!

Since 1993, the first Saturday of every June has been designated to inspire the general public and hiking enthusiasts alike to discover and celebrate America’s expansive trail network — comprising over 200,000 miles of trails. You can participate in a local hike, dog walk, cycle, horseback ride, help in a trail maintenance project, kayak, birdwatch, and so much more. It’s easy to forget how much work goes into trails’ planning, development, and upkeep: National Trails Day thanks the countless volunteers and partners for their support and grueling work.

Trails of the Yamato Scrub Natural Area, Florida

Heading into the lovely trails of the Yamato Scrub Natural Area

Organized by the American Hiking Society, National Trails Day also introduces many people — those who may not otherwise normally visit parks — to all of their benefits. The day further highlights trails that people didn’t even know existed. This was actually the genesis of Serenity Spell; after hearing how so many locals were unaware of the magnificent parks and natural areas in this area (see the much-needed-updating Natural Areas and State & National Parks dropdowns, above — or the Categories section to the right), I was inspired to investigate more on my own. In today’s world, it’s critical to get outdoors and into nature. Hiking, even simple walks, gets the heart pumping, the muscles relaxed and stretched, and is an excellent way to improve overall health and mental alignment. It’s also cheap!

Click here to find an event near you for a National Trails Day event. Celebrate nature and promote our country’s parks and trails!

Oak Trees of the Florida Trail, Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Florida

Oak Trees sheltering the Florida Trail, Jonathan Dickinson State Park

Equestrian Trail, Bluefield Natural Area, Florida

Equestrian trail signage in the Bluefield Natural Area

Pines in the Atlantic Ridge State Park, Florida

Pines along the trail in the Atlantic Ridge State Park

Cantankerous Puffs of Adorable

Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way. —John Muir

We’re finally getting drenched with some much-needed rains in South Florida — the swamps and Everglades are thrilled, I’m sure of it. Last Monday alone, we received ten inches from the sky… TEN INCHES. That kind of downpour creates flash flooding, and the accompanying high winds (and lovely lightning) can wreak havoc on birds’ nests.

During a quick visit to the wetlands between the raindrops, it was obvious that there was much repair to the nests being done throughout the preserve. As I was blankly staring at a turtle (I love our turtles), I caught some commotion deep within a Pond apple tree, one that’s been an annual home to nesting Green herons. Mom had just returned with branches to repair the nest, and her little ones were obviously expecting food — and visibly unhappy about the sticks over the food.

Baby Green Heron in Pond Apple Tree, Florida Wetlands

On the lookout for mom

All babies are sweet, but Green heron babies are little cantankerous puffs of adorable.

Baby Green Heron in Pond Apple Tree, Florida Wetlands

She’s not that way, either…

And back she flew to the wetlands, to high commotion, for more nest-building materials. So much work to be done; babies still needed their food….

Baby Green Heron and Mother in Pond Apple Tree, Florida Wetlands

Honestly, mother.

[For all you locals: If you're as fascinated by the area's water cycle and flow as I am, check out Go Hydrology in my "Florida Nature Blogs" to the right — fantastic daily updates and general information!]

It’s World Turtle Day!

The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders. ―Edward Abbey

Gaaa! Today — May 23, 2013 — is the 13 annual World Turtle Day! This special day was created to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.

I love our turtles and tortoises…. I grew up with the giant South Pacific sea turtles (MAGNIFICENT), and now, I always have towels in my car for the sole purpose of transporting wayward turtles on our Florida roads (especially during nesting season, poor babies). If you encounter and relocate one, remember to *always* move them to safety in the direction he / she’s heading. Wildlife needs every tiny bit of help we can offer. More from the Mother Nature Network, in honor of this day celebrating these wonderful guys:

“The earliest turtles evolved up to 300 million years ago, branching off from a group of reptiles more closely related to crocodiles and birds than to lizards and snakes. Lots of turtle species have come and gone since then, including some spectacular ones like the car-sized “coal turtle” or the Koopa-like Meiolania damelipi. But today’s turtles face an unusually widespread danger, with about half of Earth’s 328 known species listed as threatened or endangered with extinction. They’re largely under siege from humans, yet unlike King Koopa, they didn’t bring this on themselves….”

Red-bellied Turtle, Flamingo Gardens, Florida

A Red-bellied turtle finds sanctuary at Flamingo Gardens

Florida Cooter (Turtle) in the Florida Wetlands

A Florida Cooter safely surveys his domain in the wetlands

Visiting with an Ancient Tortoise at Flamingo Gardens, Florida

Visiting with an ancient tortoise at the Flamingo Gardens wildlife rehabilitation center and sanctuary, last year… I would have climbed in for cuddles, if possible.

Sea Turtle, Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, Florida

A rescued sea turtle in rehabilitation at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach

And finally, one of my favorite guys: The always gentle and shy Gopher tortoise! I’m always trying to catch a glimpse of these sweethearts, and have written a few times in this blog about their essential role to our ecology, and the need for their continued protection.

Gopher (Burrowing) Tortoise, Savannas Preserve State Park

Trying my best not to frighten a Gopher (Burrowing) tortoise in the Savannas Preserve State Park


Read more about World Turtle Day, and protecting turtles and tortoises here
and here:

at Mother Nature Network, and at the

Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida, and at

World Wildlife Foundation, and at

Nature artist / writer Denise Dahn’s blog, learn about Gopher tortoises, and finally at

treehugger!

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